07MOSCOW3445, FORMER EMBASSY EMPLOYEE REQUESTS REFUGEE STATUS;

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW3445 2007-07-16 07:49 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXYZ0014
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMO #3445/01 1970749
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 160749Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 2078

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 003445 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/16/2017 
TAGS: PREF PINR APER RS
SUBJECT: FORMER EMBASSY EMPLOYEE REQUESTS REFUGEE STATUS; 
CLAIM NOT CREDIBLE 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns. 
Reasons 1.4 (b and d) 
 
1.  (C) This is an action request.  See paragraph 12. 
 
2.  (C) SUMMARY:  Freelance journalists Marina Kalashnikova, 
who was fired by the Embassy in 2000, and her husband Viktor 
Kalashnikov (a former Russian intelligence officer) have 
requested refugee status or other USG assistance in leaving 
Russia, claiming that they are being persecuted for writing 
critically about the government.  Tying these persecution 
claims to her previous employment at the U.S. Embassy, they 
have repeatedly claimed that all their other avenues of 
departure from Russia have been blocked by misinformation 
passed by the U.S. to other Western governments. 
 
3.  (C) Because of the difficult climate that journalists 
face in Russia, the Embassy has made a considerable effort to 
look into this case.  Embassy officers, including the 
Political Minister-Counselor and Refugee Coordinator, have 
met four times with the Kaklashnikovs and the Refugee 
Coordinator has conducted a thorough review of her claims. 
Having reviewed Kalashnikova's employment record with the 
Embassy and her journalistic credentials and those of her 
husband, we do not believe their claims of persecution are 
credible enough to warrant referral to the U.S. Refugee 
Admissions Program.  Rather, the Kalashnikovs now appear to 
be seeking refugee status as part of a long-running effort to 
have the U.S. government "atone" for her termination and to 
improve their economic situation.  Their claims are becoming 
increasingly overdramatic.  We request Department concurrence 
that we inform the Kalashnikovs that the U.S. cannot provide 
any assistance to them.  The Kalashnikovs may respond to our 
rebuff by seeking to publish derogatory, wildly inaccurate 
accounts of their interaction with the Embassy, as they have 
done in the past.  END SUMMARY. 
 
BACKGROUND 
---------- 
 
4.  (C) Marina Kalashnikova was employed by the Embassy as a 
locally engaged Information Specialist in the Public Affairs 
Section from May 12, 1998 to March 3, 2000.  Acording to a 
memo in her personnel file, she was terminated for 
unsatisfactory performance, including creating tensions among 
staff in the section in part through wild conspiracy 
theories, failing to understand her work requirements, and 
continuing her employment at the USA-Canada Institute while 
simultaneously working at the Embassy.  Her two-inch thick 
file also documents unexplained absences, rude and aggressive 
behavior to other members of the staff, and failure to carry 
out her responsibilities.  It also contains letters from her 
seeking reinstatement, asking for Embassy assistance to 
obtain a passport two years after her termination, an inquiry 
from the MFA she instigated about reasons for her dismal, and 
threats to sue the U.S. government in Russian courts, as well 
as articles she published about her treatment by the Embassy. 
 
5.  (C) Kalashnikova subsequently worked for other media 
outlets, including the newspapers Kommersant, Russkiy Kuryer, 
and Nezavisimaya Gazeta, from where she was fired, she 
claimed, at the behest of Russian officials for writing 
negative stories about them.  She has continued to 
periodically publish freelance articles but claimed it is 
impossible to find permanent employment because of 
interference by Russian authorities. 
 
6.  (C) Her husband, Viktor Kalashnikov, worked as an 
intelligence officer in the Foreign Intelligence Service 
(SVR) from 1985 to 1992.  He later became a journalist for 
the ORT television channel and claims that he was fired 
because of his liberal, pro-Western views.  He also worked 
freelance for other media outlets.  Kalashnikov claimed that 
he had approached several Western intelligence services, 
including that of the U.S., offering to work for them after 
leaving the SVR.  Like his wife, Kalashnikov maintains that 
Russian authorities have blocked his efforts to find 
full-time employment. 
 
FAST FORWARD 
------------ 
 
7.  (C) In June 2006, the Irish Ambassador passed a letter 
from the Kalashnikovs in which the two sought contacts with 
senior U.S. officials over purported threats against them and 
mistreatment by the Embassy.  The two asked for assistance in 
emigrating to the U.S. and finding employment there.  After 
reviewing the letter and other information available at post, 
REFCOORD responded to their request in a letter that noted 
they were not being considered for refugee status.  The 
Kalashnikovs persisted in seeking meetings with 
representatives from the Embassy, including the Ambassador, 
alleging that REFCOORD's letter had added to the danger they 
 
faced since Russian intelligence services believed that the 
couple was attempting to tarnish Russia's reputation abroad. 
 
8.  (C) On four occasions in 2007 -- March 27, April 4, April 
19, and May 3 -- Emboffs have met with the Kalashnikovs to 
discuss their situation and further assess any persecution 
claim they might have.  The Kalashnikovs told us that Russian 
intelligence servic
es were orchestrating a campaign to 
discredit them and that they believed they were in danger. 
They claim this is a result of arose from their favorable 
orientation toward the West, their criticism of the GOR, and 
alleged intelligence service retribution for Kalashnikov's 
unwillingness to rejoin them.  They described various 
provocations or incidents of thinly veiled or explicit 
threats, occurring not only in Russia but during their 
travels abroad in Germany, the UK, Ireland, Poland, the 
Baltics, and the U.S.  Kalashnikova alleged that Russian 
intelligence services had been involved in the death of her 
elderly mother "as a message" and that she feared going to 
the hairdresser because the stylist may "slit my throat." 
Following the poisoning of Aleksandr Litvinenko, Kalashnikov 
published an op-ed piece in a Russian weekly news magazine 
drawing parallels between himself and Litvinenko.  Privately, 
Kalashnikov told us he believed he was the target of a 
poisoning in 1997.  He provided few details in describing 
this incident, other than to say he fell ill for a few hours 
on a train from Brussels to Amsterdam after a visit to the 
Russian Embassy in Brussels as part of a NATO study tour.  He 
said he did not seek medical attention because he did not 
want to be dropped from the tour. 
 
9.  (C) The Kalashnikovs attribute their inability to obtain 
employment with news outlets or think tanks outside of Russia 
to Kalashnikova's firing from the Embassy and information 
allegedly spread by the USG that they are a security risk. 
Kalashnikov claimed that the couple have been told repeatedly 
by contacts in Europe who offered to help them on the 
condition that they "have to settle things with the 
Americans.  Everything passes through them."  Kalashnikov 
also said that his approaches to several Western intelligence 
services offering information were rebuffed after initial 
interest, with allusions to information obtained from U.S. 
intelligence.  In a meeting with REFCOORD on May 3, 
Kalashnikov asked that the USG "rehabilitate" Kalashnikova 
and try to arrange some employment for them in a third 
country if they cannot be resettled to the U.S. 
 
10.  (C) Beyond seeking meetings with Emboffs in Moscow, the 
Kalashnikovs have also approached our embassies in London and 
in Dublin during recent trips there, maintaining their claims 
of persecution and complaining that Embassy Moscow was 
unfairly discriminating against them.  On several occasions, 
Kalashnikova has continued to misrepresent herself as an 
Embassy employee, handing out business cards from her 
previous employment, including as part of her application for 
a visa for the UK.  When queried by UK officials about her, 
the Embassy informed the British of her true status, 
resulting in the February 2007 cancellation of her UK visa. 
 
REPUTATION AS JOURNALISTS 
------------------------- 
 
11.  (C) We have devoted considerable time and effort to meet 
the Kalashnikovs and hear their claims because of the 
difficult climate for many Russian journalists.  We have 
found nothing that would substantiate their claims. 
Journalistic contacts in Moscow have told us that 
Kalashnikova has a reputation for being abrasive and 
difficult to the point that she is unemployable.  The 
Kalashnikovs said that their appeal to the Glasnost Defense 
Foundation, a highly regarded defender of press freedom, 
brought no assistance, further suggesting to us that they and 
their claims have little credibility.  Our assessment is that 
the couple's articles have been straightforward reporting, 
neither overly critical of Russia or unwaiveringly supportive 
of the West.  The most critical article that Kalashnikova has 
written recently is a commentary on the medical care she 
received during a recent trip to Ireland. 
 
COMMENT AND ACTION REQUEST 
-------------------------- 
 
12.  (C) Upon careful examination, we have found no evidence 
to substantiate the Kalashnikovs' claims.  Rather, their 
conspiratorial nature appears consistent with the sometimes 
bizarre behavior displayed while Kalashnikova was employed at 
the Embassy.  With Department concurrence, we intend to 
convey to the Kalashnikovs that we cannot refer them to the 
U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and intend to stop any 
further contact with them.  In doing so, we expect the 
Kalashnikovs to persist in pursuing this issue, perhaps 
through seeking to publish sensational, critical articles 
about their treatment and/or approaching other U.S. missions 
 
or the Department, either in person or via e-mail.  We 
request Department concurrence with this approach soonest. 
BURNS

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